September 16, 2008

Staff Picks: Book Review Roundup

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:36 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

We haven't taken a look at what books the big business magazines have been covering for awhile, in part because the coverage has been kind of slim. The Economist has covered some really, really, interesting looking books, but seems to have taken a hiatus from business books.

Even BusinessWeek is reviewing business books with a bent toward the larger picture rather than your more typical business book. Susan Berfield recently reviewed pollster John Zogby's The Way We'll Be:The John Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream, calling it "provocative but occasianally maddening." Although she believes "Zogby comes across as a serious man with his finger reliably on the pulse of the U.S. public," she doesn't agree with all of his assessments. Namely this quote from the book:

The people who are losing their jobs are adjusting. They're altering their ambitions . . . to bring them in line with the realities of their lives.
And, this one, concerning the growing disparity between the rich and poor:
Rather than boil with resentment that some have so much when others have so little, most Americans seem to accept the billionaires among us and even empathize with the problems that come with having too much of everything.
In effectively simple response, Berfield writes "We do?" However, due to the fact that Zogby has done polling for such corporate clients as Coca-Cola, IBM, and Microsoft, there are bound to be significant insights for entrepreneurs on the changing demographics of this country, and I know a few folks in the office were looking forward to checking that out.

Christopher Farrell's review of The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It by Robert J. Shiller in the September 15th issue is more positive. This probably won't help with the nuts and bolts of your business, but if you're interested in a good look at broader economic issues and government policy, Farrell calls Shiller's diagnosis "one of the best cases ... for New Deal-scale short-term intervention by Washington."

Adam Aston's review in the September 22nd issue is given two pages, probably because he reviews Thomas Friedman's Hot, Flat and Crowded. He hilariously writes of the book that "if Fareed Zakaria and Al Gore met and co-authored a long-winded book, this would be it," but lavishes great praise on the book throughout, even suggesting sections of it if you're not going to read the entire thing. Many of you are going to read this book regardless, but for those of you on the fence, Aston's review might be persuasive.

Getting into your more traditional business book, Inc.'s "skimmer's guide" this month is to Billion-Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years by Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui, and contains this summary:

The backstory: Mui is co-author of Unleashing the Killer App, among the best books about the business implications of technology. He and Carroll worked together at a consulting firm. If Killer App is Mui's Paradiso -- a celebration of the bold and innovative--this new book is his Inferno--an indictment of the bold and chowderheaded.
And, although they don't post book reviews online, Jia Lynn Yang also wrote briefly and positively of Billion Dollar Lessons in Fortune's September 1 issue, and Daniel Okrent reviewed Randall Stross's Planet Google in the issue of September 15, writing:
Though Stross's eyes occasionally pop at the wonders being concocted in the Googlian halls, this isn't a fan book; he's as insightful on the company's failures (the oafishly naive start of it's book-scanning operation, the financial swamp of its video efforts) as he is on its triumphs.
I'd just like to say that "the oafishly naive start of it's book-scanning operation" gave more than a few people in the book publishing industry prematurely gray hairs. That's just how intimidating the force that Okrent describes as "the 21st century's most notable company/employer/verb" has so quickly become.